By Micah Tam
Though America is usually referred to as a “melting pot” of different races, cultures and ethnicities, cultural ignorance is widespread. According to Chimes, Biola University’s student-run newspaper, “America continues to struggle with cultural ignorance. Some national pride is useful, but too many people take this pride beyond proper proportion and forget that America is only one country in a world filled with nearly 200 different nations.”
Here are five ways you can become more culturally aware:
- Understand why culture and diversity matters: The Diversity Awareness Partnership, an affiliation of the Greene County Juvenile Office in Springfield, Missouri explains that diversity “teaches us to accept differences in others and look beyond the base emotions of language, culture, gender, race and color…It teaches us to be more open and accepting of things that are different from us and in that process makes us more adaptable and open.”
- Learn about your own history and culture: According to an article from the American Psychological Association, it is important to “get started by exploring your own historical roots, beliefs, and values… Self-assessment makes participants realize the pervasive role culture plays in their lives… It also makes people aware of their own biases while sparking open-minded curiosity about other cultures.”
Want a way to know about your personal culture? Take this quiz!
- Adopt a flexible attitude: Be motivated to get to know people who have different cultures than you. Keep an open mind when talking to people, and don’t be surprised or disgusted when they show differences from you (whether it be behavior, speech pattern, etc.). As when you talk to anyone, be respectful and cordial. Remember that we are all humans in the end, just with some differences in what we believe and the ways of our rituals. Also, keep this in mind when talking to people who want to explore your culture as well.
- Check your assumptions: Assuming things about other people can be dangerous. Not only does it cause misunderstandings, but it keeps you from learning more about different things and people, causing close-mindedness. For example, don’t believe in common stereotypes about different races and cultures. Even if there might be “some truth to it,” it’s best to take it with a grain of salt. According to S. Chris Edmonds from The Purposeful Culture Group, “Seek multiple sources for facts… Learn from opposing viewpoints… Don’t trust labels.” Make sure facts support your belief. The main thing that can help check your assumptions are concrete facts. The key thing to exploring other cultures is remembering that assumptions are one of the major reasons why there is such a disconnect between people. Yes, letting go of some assumptions might be hard. But in the end, the amount of culture that you can absorb is more fruitful.
- Celebrate diversity: This can be as easy as visiting a museum dedicated to other cultures or planning an international movie night. (Find a museum near you here.) Every culture is unique in its own way, and there is so much depth to each one that can be explored. Anything that can help you immerse yourself in a new experience can celebrate diversity. Remember to spread love rather than hate, and open your mind by taking a step back from yourself and seeing a new perspective.